Riots, The Privatised City, Networked Urbanism and the Pretzel Logic of Looting

I have an Op Ed up on Domus on the UK riots and their relationship to urban commodification, communication networks and the prolapsed politics of looting.

Here’s an extract:

“Yet it was also an attack whose ideology seems to spring from the very same logics that shape the contemporary urban condition. Densified by digital networks, the riots intensified unexceptional activities and spaces of the city such as leisure, high streets, desire, and pleasure. They transformed these everyday urban activities into an exceptional state of unlawfulness.

We might understand these riots as simultaneously an attempt to claim and reject the modern commodified city. While their apparent chaotic nature represents a logical form of escape from the totalising effect of neo-liberal urbanism, at the same time the riots reinforce the very things they attack, binding their actors tighter to the frameworks of commodity culture.

In this inside-out, back-to-front mode of operation, the riots reflect exactly the same kind of pretzel logic that characterises contemporary politics: where social progressiveness can only be delivered through privatisation, where the rhetoric of community and society is used as an argument to advance the corporatisation of the state.

Just as previous forms of riot represented an extreme version of the ideological ground of their era, so apparently do these. Rather than representing its collapse, the riots represent an accelerated version of the contemporary city: an exaggeration of its spatial and programmatic tendencies. We get the riots that we deserve”

The full text is here on Domus:

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  1. Jack says:

    I really enjoyed the Domus piece.

    I mentioned you over on the BD live debate:

    and added:

    Re: Sam Jacob + commodity culture. In this sense, I am sorry to say that I think the architect is largely powerless as a social force. In Ballard’s Super-Cannes, Millennium People, Kingdom Come, we see prescient predictions of precisely the same reactions to hyper-commercialised space. I would be very interested in hearing how the architect has any relevance at all to these riots – which would seem to me the first point to establish in the debate.

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